By Abba Gwale & Ismail Auwal
1. COVID-19 Pandemic
A new type of coronavirus causing severe acute respiratory syndrome was identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Soon after, the virus became a pandemic, overstretching the public health system and disrupting economic activities globally. Since its emergence, a total of 83,423,344 infections have been recorded, with 1,818,865 deaths. Globally, businesses closed and nations shut their borders as a drastic measure to contain the pandemic.
First case in Nigeria
On 27 February 2020, Nigeria confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in Lagos State, an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria had returned on 25 February from Milan, Italy through the Murtala Muhammad International airport.
On 9 March 2020, the second case was confirmed, a Nigerian citizen in Ogun state who had contact with the Italian citizen.
On March 9, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the presidential task force on COVID-19 under the leadership of Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha.
Low testing capacity and lack of access to essential medical supplies and life-saving machineries like ventilators affected Nigeria’s response to the pandemic.
On Sunday 29th March 2020 Nigeria announced a lockdown of major cities worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, before subsequently expanding the measure to states like Kano and Kaduna. State Governments across the country imposed different versions of the lockdown and other restrictions.
The lockdown may have helped in slowing down the pandemic and at the same time contributed to economic slowdown, plunging the Nigerian economy into its second recession in 5 years.
2. Maradona, Connery, Bryant, Mubarak, Kyari and other Influential Figures Departed
Year 2020 saw many deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But many influential figures died due to other causes as well. The legendary Maradona died of a heart attack, Kobe Bryant perished in a plane crash, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) lost the battle to cancer, the actor Sean Connery, Hosni Mubarak (former Egyptian leader), Jerry Rawlings, former Presidents of Mali, Burundi president Nkurunziza, Irfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Palestinian negotiator Sa’ed Erekat, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, and popular designer Pierre Cardin, among others too numerous to mention. Locally, Nigeria lost some of its prominent sons and daughters including Abba Kyari, Samaila Isa Funtua, Domkat Bali, Emir of Zazzau, Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Sheikh Ahmad Lemu, Sam Nda-Isaiah, Hama Bachama, NNPC GMD Maikanti Baru, Garkuwan Gombe, Emir of Biu, Usman Faruk (first military administrator of Sokoto State), Majidadin Kano (Kwankwaso’s father), Balarabe Musa (former Kaduna governor), and Dr Marliyya Zayyan to mention just a few.
3. EndSARS Protests: the Soro Soke generation
End SARS was a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. The protests that emanated from social media transformed into a physical movement that spread to many Nigerian cities and saw the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of human rights abuses.
About 28 million tweets bearing the hashtag were generated on Twitter alone, while solidarity protests by Nigerians in diaspora and global celebrity, political, and human rights figures occurred in major cities of the world.
Following violent escalations, which included attacks by agitators against protesters and police, the governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, declared a statewide 24-hour curfew effective from 20 October 2020. During the time, images of some persons allegedly working with the Lagos state government and the Lekki Concession Company were circulated on Twitter removing cameras at the toll gate and turning off streetlights.
A few hours later, it was reported that men of the Nigerian Army arrived at the scene of the protest and opened fire on peaceful protesters, thereby resulting in a disputed number of deaths. A clip of the shooting videoed by a Nigerian youth, DJ Switch, trended on the Internet showing how live bullets were being shot at innocent protesters.
The protests were soon hijacked as mobs and hoodlums set fire on government and private buildings and looted warehouses holding foods provided by CACOVID (a private sector initiative) as part of Covid-19 palliative initiatives.
4. France, Muslims Face-Off
French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks defending cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad SAW caused outrage among Muslims across the world, triggering a campaign of boycott against French products and calls from citizens of many countries to sack France internationals working as expatriates. Macron’s statement came after a French schoolteacher, Samuel Patty, was beheaded by a teenager of Chechen origin for displaying the offensive cartoon in a class.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Oct. 13 that 73 mosques, private schools, and workplaces had been shut down since the beginning of the year due to “the fight against radical Islamism”.
French government’s attitude against Muslims has led to an increase in Islamophobic actions and racist attacks in the country. Despite all this, French authorities continued encouraging the insulting cartoons initially published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine under the guise of “freedom of expression”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Oct. 7 2020 that Macron’s “Islam in crisis” statement was a clear provocation, and described his expression as “impudence and rudeness”. Erdogan criticized Macron and said he needs “mental treatment”.
OIC lends voice
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on France government to revise its separatist policies that target Islam and offends over one and a half billion Muslims in the world in a statement released by the Cooperation.
5. Israel Regaining Ties with Arab Countries
Israel has been having a troubled relationship with Arab countries since its formation, with the majority of Arab countries not recognizing it due to its treatment of Palestinians and occupation of Arab lands. Prior to 2020, Israel had diplomatic relations with only Egypt, Oman, and Jordan. However, President Trump’s administration midwife successful agreements with three Arab League countries namely Bahrain, the United Arab of Emirate, and Morocco as well as softening of relations with Sudan. This is seen as a major breakthrough in the Middle East, but Palestinians see it as betrayal and abandonment of the Arab cause.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia for a secret meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a move seen as significant steps towards forging a closer Saudi-Israel alliance to counter Iran. Reports also indicate that Saudi Arabia has opened its airspace to Israeli flights.
6. COVID-19 Vaccines
By mid-December 2020, 57 vaccine candidates were in clinical research including 40 in Phase I-II trials and Phase II-III trials. In Phase III trials, several COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated efficacy as high as 95% in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections.
Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca predicted a manufacturing capacity of 5.3 billion doses in 2021, which could be used to vaccinate about 3 billion people (as the vaccines require two doses for a protective effect against COVID-19). By the end of the year 2020, four vaccines were approved, including the China Sinopharm. This is unprecedented in the history of vaccine development.
Nigerian government said it expects to obtain its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in January. According to the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, the committee has been set up to select the vaccine most suitable for the country. The Minister said Nigeria has signed up with the Global Vaccine Alliance Initiative (GAVI) for access to vaccines, adding that they have also registered with the Global Access Program (COVAX) co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
7. Zabarmari Massacre
On 28 November 2020, Boko Haram massacred 76 local farmers in Shokobe near Zabarmari village of Jere Local Government, Borno state in retaliation over the handling of Boko Haram member to the military by the local vigilante group. The massacre shook the country and brought the horrors of Boko Haram crimes to the national front-burner. Borno elders and other Nigerians called for the sack of Nigeria’s military leadership.
United Nations initially put the figures of the dead as 110, but later withdrew the claim after sending its officials on the ground.
8. Kankara Abduction
During the evening of 11 December 2020, over 400 schoolboys were kidnapped from a government secondary boarding school on the outskirts of Kankara, Katsina State. A gang of gunmen on motorcycles attacked the school, where more than 800 pupils reside, for over an hour, and whisked away over 400 schoolboys.
On 16 December 2020 Boko Haram released a video showing that it has custody of the abducted students. One of the schoolboys appeared in the video urging the Nigerian Government to negotiate with the abductors and refrain from the use of force.
After more than a week in captivity, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina confirmed the release of the abducted students on Thursday 18 December 2020. Masari later told the newsmen that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) successfully brokered the deal for the release of the abducted boys.
Controversy ensued when the Nigerian army claimed that they are the one who freed the students from captivity, while at the same time the governor of Zamfara, Bello Matawalle was claiming victory for brokering the deal that led to the boys’ freedom.
On 19 December 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari met with the freed students hours after Governor Masari received them in Katsina Government House.
The abduction of the students reignited calls for the sack of military chiefs and the resignation of the president by different groups over their failure to secure the country.
9. Dethronement of Emir Sanusi
In March 2020, Emir Muhammad Sanusi II was removed from his position in a letter signed by the Secretary to Kano State Government. His removal, though anticipated long ago (due to his unresolved feud with Gov. Ganduje), came as a shock to the fans of the highly revered stool of Kano emirate.
In his first speech after the removal, Sanusi II said, “God in His infinite Wisdom had willed that I would become an emir of Kano so I was enthroned on the 8th of June 2014. I spent almost six years on the throne. But today God has also willed I will leave the throne. I have taken it in good faith,” he said in a video message.
“We are calling on people to be calm. “We urge our families and children to embrace the new emir. They should protect the heritage of this house,” he added.
His uncle and former Emir of Bichi, Aminu Ado Bayero, son to the late Emir Ado Bayero, succeeded Emir Sanusi II on the throne.
10. Protests over George Floyd’s death (Black Lives Matter)
George Floyd was a 46-year old African-American who died after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death sparked national protests calling for attention towards racial discrimination and injustice meted out to blacks by the predominantly white police.
His last moment shouting, “I can’t breath” became a symbol of resistance against police brutality in the US and Black Lives Matter slogans trended globally from NBA to Hollywood, Wall Street to Law Enforcement.
11. US Presidential Election
The 2020 United States held its 59th presidential election held on November 3, 2020. Former VP Joe Biden of the Democrat Party defeated incumbent president Donald Trump.
Trump became the first US president since George H. W. Bush in 1992 and the eleventh incumbent in the country’s history to lose a bid for a second term, and Biden won the largest share of the popular vote against an incumbent since 1932. The election saw a record number of ballots cast early and by mail due to the measures that had been imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the defeat, President Donald Trump has continued to declare himself as the winner of the election, questioning the integrity of the electoral processes by calling the election results that gave Biden victory a fraud.
Biden is expected to be sworn in on 20th January 2021.
12. Brexit Deal Signed
Finally, the Brexit deal was agreed upon by EU and British negotiators. The landmark deal brought an end to the UK’s tortuous journey of leaving the European Union four after Britain voted to leave the EU, a process that consumed two prime ministers (David Cameron and Theresa May) as well as the rise in nationalist politics across the EU.
13. Nigeria joins AfCFTA
In July 2020, Nigeria joined the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement signed by 55 African countries will create a free market for African goods and services. Analysts see it as a significant step towards regional integration and the creation of a common market and economic area for African countries, while others fear that it may spell doom for local manufacturing due to the proliferation of African goods in the Nigerian market. The agreement will take effect in January 2021.
14. Tech Age: Rise of Zoom, Team, Meet, Webex during lockdown & social distancing
Generally, the year 2020 was characterized by a decline in economic fortunes. However, few companies made a lot of profits. One that stands out is Zoom, a video-conferencing application. Because of the lockdown and social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, most organizations and businesses resorted to the use of Zoom and other similar platforms like Microsoft’s Team, Google’ Meet, Cisco’s WebEx, for their meetings. In the second quarter of the year 2020, Zoom’s profits ballooned to $185.7 million from just $5.5 million in the same quarter of 2019.
15. Australian Wildfire (Black Summer)
As of March 2020, a wildfire in Australia that resulted from intense heat burnt about 18.6 million hectares of land. Billions of animals were affected and some species went extinct. Approximately 6000 buildings were destroyed. Like COVID-19, the wildfire was a spillover from 2019. Reportedly, about 34 people were killed by the inferno.